for once, not a human parasites thread
April 9, 2006 11:19 PM   Subscribe -- all about hand-raising silkworms and processing their spit.
posted by casarkos (14 comments total)
This is fascinating and wonderful - thanks for the post, casarkos. Bookmarked for futher exploration. His list of related links look great, too.
posted by madamjujujive at 11:58 PM on April 9, 2006

It puts the lotion in the basket!

Absolutely fascinating, but it did freak me out a bit. I've often wondered how silk is harvested, and now I know more than I thought possible. This guy seems to produce very small quantities - it makes me wonder how silk is harvested on an industrial scale.
posted by aladfar at 12:08 AM on April 10, 2006

Ooooh fantastic post, I need to find a Mulberry tree nearby so I can try this next spring!
posted by wildilocks at 4:14 AM on April 10, 2006

posted by Peter H at 6:44 AM on April 10, 2006

Michael, the owner of wormspit was featured in this online adventure. It gives you an upclose and personal look at what it's like to grow silk worms in your extra bedroom.
posted by amphigory at 7:10 AM on April 10, 2006

I had the strange experience of raising silkworms two years in a row, when I was teaching. I became a slave to their hunger. Each night after work, I was sneaking around the leafy neighborhoods of Philadelphia, pruning branches from the trees in doctor's office parking lots and parks.

They were fascinating little creatures. Their rate of growth was astounding. We didn't harvest any silk, which would have required killing the larvae, but it was instructive to see exactly how labor-intensive the silk-making process was, especially in pre-industrial times. You can see how intensely valued this fabric was; it requires an army of caterpillars, an army of people to keep them fed, untild amounts of leaves, days of waiting, and shocking numbers of hours to unwind the threads from their cocoons, let alone to dye and weave the fabric.
posted by Miko at 8:39 AM on April 10, 2006

it makes me wonder how silk is harvested on an industrial scale

There is now machinery which can unwind thousands of cocoons at a time and skein the fibers.
posted by Miko at 8:41 AM on April 10, 2006

Fantastic post! Totally just devoured my afternoon.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 9:07 AM on April 10, 2006

This was beautiful and creepy. Also, I'm glad that I'm not the only one who immediately thought of Jamie Gumm.
posted by crataegus at 9:14 AM on April 10, 2006

this fits nicely with bumblebarf.
posted by arialblack at 12:50 PM on April 10, 2006

Super interesting! Thanks.

Apparently there is also vegetarian silk, which is produced without killing the animals involved. Whether this is vegan is up to you.
posted by beerbajay at 12:59 PM on April 10, 2006

fascinating post casarkos.

just out of curioisity, anyone know what the profit margin typically is on a home operation like this?

or is this type of thing just done for fun?
posted by pruner at 6:00 PM on April 10, 2006

Really interesting post, thanks.
posted by theora55 at 6:15 PM on April 10, 2006

i don't believe there is a high profit margin for the volume of silk my pal michael at wormspit was producing when i visited him. it is certainly a labor of love with him.

as miko pointed out, you become a slave to their ravenous appetites. it's amazing to watch them systematically devour a leave. what surprised me the most is the eerie little nibbling noises you can hear while they chomp away at the mulberry leaves. the sound is just low enough that you don't notice it until you stand quietly and listen. a little louder and the sound would be qualify as being creepy.
posted by terrycloth_monkey at 7:53 PM on April 10, 2006

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